Venice Simplon-Orient Express: An Icon of the Rails

Words by Belmond Editors

Venice Simplon-Orient Express: An Icon of the Rails

A blond woman in a white halter-neck dress stretches an arm across the train window as she peers out, seen from the platform.

An icon of art deco design and an enduring symbol of luxury, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a true classic. Step on board for a singularly elegant adventure.

Steeped in endless history, glamour lurks in every nook and cranny on our storied train. The inaugural Orient Express service launched on 4 October 1883 by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. The bygone glamour of luxury travel still breathes within the carriages, which retain their vintage charm and innate opulence.

Which dazzles more, the list of famous faces who’ve ridden these carriages or those who’ve starred in films about the historic train? During its time, the train carried passengers including novelist Leo Tolstoy, revolutionary Leon Trotsky, Hollywood starlet Marlene Dietrich, Lawrence of Arabia and the spy Mata Hari. In the present day, movies about the service have starred Sean Connery (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1963), Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench (Murder on the Orient Express, 2017), among others. And let’s not forget its crucial role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is, quite simply, the most storied set of carriages in the world. It offers an experience that promises to take you not just across Europe, but to transport you to another world entirely. With its polished wood, sumptuous upholstery and antique fixtures, the train epitomises the opulence and elegance of the Golden Age of travel. From the art deco flourishes to the masterful marquetry, the train is a design lover’s dream and a sight that must be seen to be believed.

Authenticity is everything here. The train comprises the original sleeping cars of the 1920s and 30s, along with three dining cars: Etoile du Nord, Cote d’Azur and L’Oriental. Our elegant bar car is replete with baby grand piano and a boutique. Passengers may choose from a single or twin cabin, or stretch out in a suite.

There’s much to marvel at in the cabins’ ingenious design. A washbasin is concealed in a handsome wood cabinet. A plush daytime sofa is transformed into cosy upper and lower berth beds with crisp damask sheets by your cabin steward while you dine in the evening. The beds are then whisked away again after you’ve taken breakfast. This magically discreet service is all part of the experience. Meanwhile, our six Grand Suites represent the absolute pinnacle of luxury: comfort and desire combine to heady effect, aided along by free-flowing champagne, of course. With interiors inspired by Paris, Venice, Istanbul, Vienna, Prague and Budapest, these suites’ luxury know no bounds.

Classic routes on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express take in such fabled European cities as London, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. But this experience really is all about the journey. As you glide through lush, rolling countryside and majestic mountains, you’re encouraged to savour every moment. Dining is similarly a moveable feast. Besides satiating your eyes, you’ll be deliciously indulged with our famed cuisine. Each dish is lovingly prepared with seasonal and local ingredients picked from the destinations the train travels through. Glance through the window and you may spot our skilled team inspecting lobsters from Brittany or salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel.

On the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, evening dress for dinner is absolutely part of the experience. As the train moves into the inky night, the glittering art deco champagne bar beckons. Be assured that whichever route you choose, you’ll be embarking on an adventure for the senses and the imagination—in which you take the starring role.


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